As the days grow longer, you and your family likely spend more and more time outside, enjoying the sun and warm weather. You know that protecting your kids' tender skin from the sun is a priority -- but with hundreds of sunscreens available in all price ranges, and conflicting news reports about the benefits and dangers of various types of sunscreen, you may be overwhelmed at the variety of options available. Read on to learn more about the most effective sunscreens for young children, as well as a few you may want to avoid.

What types of sunscreens are most effective for young children?

If the thought of solid white zinc oxide on your nose takes you back to childhood, it's for good reason -- these types of nanoparticle-based sunblocks are by far the safest and most effective. Not only does the physical barrier provided by zinc particles block UVA and UVB rays more effectively than chemical-based sunblocks, but it is also longer-lasting and doesn't degrade with sun exposure. This helps improve sun protection for little ones who may not be patient enough to stand still for a reapplication every few hours.

An alternative to zinc oxide is titanium oxide. Because these particles are even smaller, titanium oxide sunscreens blend in more quickly, without a chalky appearance. However, this ease of application is balanced with a slightly lower effectiveness. Although titanium oxide sunscreens do a great job of blocking UVA and UVB rays, you'll need to reapply this sunscreen slightly more frequently than zinc oxide sunscreens, particularly if your child has been sweating or swimming.

Are there any sunscreens you should avoid for your child?

Recent studies have indicated health concerns associated with spray sunscreens. It's generally a bad idea to ingest or inhale either nanoparticle-based or chemical sunscreens, and when these ingredients are aerosolized near your child's face, there's a high probability that he or she will breathe in the ingredients and develop lung irritation. There haven't been any long-term studies on the effects of breathing in sunscreen ingredients on future lung or overall health, but breathing in sunscreen is unlikely to ever have positive results.

In a pinch, spray sunscreen is preferable to no sunscreen at all -- but you'll want to spray the sunscreen on your own hands before approaching your child to apply it. This ensures that the small sunscreen particles remain far away from your child's mouth and lungs. For more information on skin health, talk to a professional like Callahan Scott MD.